Another alternative was to have the president elected by national or state legislators. Some thought that an executive elected by the national legislature would be a „mere creature“ of the legislative power without independent judgment. Delegates such as Washington, Madison, and Hamilton believed that promoting the free flow of trade across state borders and nationalizing the economy would lead America to become an economic powerhouse. James Madison`s last entry in his notes on the convention describes the scene where the delegates signed the document they hoped would become the Constitution of the United States. Soon after, the thirteen soon-to-be-independent states created an „article of confederation.“ Although some consider it America`s first „federal“ constitution, it actually gave the Central American government so little power that it looked more like a treaty between the thirteen independent states than a constitution for a new nation. It was little more than a „friendship league“ in which „each state retained its sovereignty, freedom and independence.“ Although it gave the central government important responsibilities – including „common defense, the security of their freedoms, and their mutual and general well-being“ – it deprived the government of most of the powers necessary to exercise those responsibilities – including the power to tax and regulate trade between independent states. Moreover, the articles of confederation did not provide for a chief executive capable of giving energy and concentration to the new central government. The remarkable achievement of the fifty-five men who gathered in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 was by no means inevitable. Looking back at their work this summer, we can identify some of the factors that allowed them to achieve their success. Among the most important was certainly the quality of leadership among those most committed to strengthening the U.S.
government. The leader was thirty-seven-year-old James Madison. Madison was a few inches tall, skinny, suffered from a combination of poor physical health and hypochondria, and was painfully clumsy in every public forum, but possessed a combination of intellect, energy, and political skills that would mobilize efforts to create an entirely new form of continental union. The „Grand Compromise“ made possible both the creation of the House of Representatives, which was divided by the population, and the Senate, which represented the states equally. The ratification campaign was a great pleasure. The tide has turned in Massachusetts, where the „vote now, change later“ compromise helped ensure victory in that state and ultimately in the last recalcitrants. Two other questions about the president also sparked intense debate: how long should the president`s term last? And should the number of terms the president could serve be limited? This debate was based on the fear that a monarchy or despot might take control of the country. The Convention finally decided on a four-year term, with no limit on the number of times the President could be re-elected. The convention also discussed whether the new federal government should be allowed to ban the importation of enslaved persons from outside the United States, including directly from Africa. They eventually agreed to allow Congress to ban it if it decided to do so, but not before twenty years had passed.
Remarkably, this was one of the few provisions of the Constitution that could not be amended. It was not until 1808 that the United States officially banned the international slave trade. Delegates voted more than 60 times before the method was chosen. The final agreement was to have the president elected by the voters of each state who would be elected „in a way“ that could „order“ its legislature. Each voter would vote for two people (one of whom could not be a resident of the same state). The person with the most votes would become president. But if no one had a majority of the votes, the House of Representatives elected the candidate from the top five (with each state`s delegation casting one vote). On June 30, Connecticut delegates proposed a compromise. According to Madison`s notes, they suggested that „the part of the right to vote in the 1. the branch should be according to the number of free inhabitants; and that in the second branch or the senate, each state should have one vote, no more. The proposal did not put an end to fierce opposition and fierce debate.
Some delegates began to leave in protest and a sense of gloom settled on the Statehouse. „It seems,“ Sherman said, „that we`ve reached a point where we can`t move in some way.“ Washington wrote to Alexander Hamilton (who had left) that the crisis was so severe that he almost despaired of seeing a favorable outcome. In February 1787, Congress decided that a convention should be convened to revise the Articles of Confederation, the country`s first constitution. In May, 55 delegates came to Philadelphia and the Constitutional Convention began. Debates erupted over congressional representation, slavery and the new executive branch. The debates lasted four hot and humid months. But eventually, the delegates reached compromises, and on September 17, they produced the U.S. Constitution and replaced the articles with the government document that worked effectively for more than 200 years. The Constitution of the United States has become the main text of the American civil religion. As a nation that has no common religion, „We the people“ have come to worship our Constitution as the Scripture that holds us together. In virtually every public opinion poll conducted on the subject, Americans express not only their respect for the Constitution, but also their strong views on its meaning. In fact, many Americans—whether members of the Tea Party, left-wing critics of America`s growing inequality, Democrats or Republicans in Congress, and (with special effect) U.S.
Supreme Court justices—feel so passionate about our founding documents that they claim they are the only true defenders of the ideas expressed therein; and that their opponents are not only wrong and ill-advised, but in some cases downright „anti-American.“ But in fact, regardless of their passion or respect for the U.S. Constitution, most Americans don`t even have a minimal historical understanding of it. (In a recent poll, for example, 71 percent of Americans thought the phrase „All men are created equal“ was in the Constitution and not in the Declaration of Independence. Even more astonishing is that in another poll, a third of Americans expressed the belief that the Declaration of Independence was written after the Civil War!) The debate among delegates about the nature of the U.S. presidency has been more heated and longer than that of representation in Congress. On the one hand, nationalists such as James Wilson and Governor Morris have argued emphatically for a strong and independent executive capable of giving the government „energy, deployment and responsibility.“ They called on their fellow delegates to give the president an absolute veto over congressional legislation. At the other end of the spectrum, Roger Sherman, a dressed and brutal Connecticut delegate who would prove to be one of the convention`s most influential members, spoke to many delegates when he said that the „executive judiciary“ was „nothing more than an institution to put the will of the legislature into action.“ This led Sherman to conclude that the president should be removed from office „at will“ if a majority of the legislature disagreed with him on an important issue. In the end, it was the compromise that won again – delegates agreed to give the president a limited veto, but that could be overturned by a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress. As part of its decision to become independent, the „United States“ paved the way for the creation of the first written constitutions in world history.
Most of these state constitutions contained „bills of rights“ in addition to creating specific contours of how their new state governments were to operate. These statements specifically spelled out the nature of the „inalienable rights“ mentioned in the Declaration of Independence – rights such as freedom of expression, freedom of religion, the right to a jury trial, the right to bear arms as part of a „citizen militia,“ and many, many others. .